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When Men Aren't as Good-Looking as They Think

Research finds, again, that men tend to overestimate their own attractiveness.

Raisa Kanareva/Shutterstock
Source: Raisa Kanareva/Shutterstock

Here’s yet another reason why women have better self-insight than men: They are less likely to overestimate their own level of attractiveness.

At least this was the finding of a new study published in a recent issue of Cogent Psychology.

To come to this conclusion, researchers led by Stacy Yen-Lim Sim of Bowling Green State University surveyed 161 university undergraduates. They asked each participant to rate their own level of attractiveness as well as the attractiveness of others in the study. Specifically, here’s how the questions were worded:

  • To evaluate self-perceived attractiveness, participants rated, on an eight-point scale, how sexually attractive a given individual would find them.
  • To evaluate the attractiveness of others, participants rated the “natural beauty” of others in the study.

They found that men’s ratings of self-perceived attractiveness were higher than women’s ratings; however, looking at others' ratings, women were rated overall as more attractive than men.

According to the researchers, this is consistent with previous research showing that men tend to overestimate their own level of attractiveness while women don’t.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

The researchers also examined whether participants’ ratings of others' level of attractiveness depended on their own level of self-perceived attractiveness. They found that it did, but only for men. Men who rated themselves as more attractive were more likely to rate others (both women and men) as more attractive. Women, on the other hand, showed no such difference.

Why? While past research suggests that men exaggerate their own level of attractiveness to make themselves seem more competitive in the dating pool (even if only to themselves), this study suggests other factors might be at play. Perhaps attractive males are simply more comfortable rating others highly because they feel secure and unthreatened—but the same does not apply to attractive women. Or, maybe it’s that men who perceive themselves to be attractive (but aren’t) are more lenient grading others' attractiveness in the same way they are lenient with themselves.

Regardless of the reason, an interesting fact stands: Women have better insight when it comes to judging attractiveness. They don’t overestimate their own level of attractiveness (like men do), nor do they let their own level of attractiveness bias their ratings of the attractiveness of others.

Perhaps women are the more rational sex, after all?

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Sim, S. Y. L., Saperia, J., Brown, J. A., & Bernieri, F. J. (2015). Judging attractiveness: Biases due to raters’ own attractiveness and intelligence. Cogent Psychology, 2(1), 996316.

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